Can ADHD cause mood swings?

ADHD mood swings are related to the emotional dysregulation often associated with the disorder. According to some studies, emotional dysregulation affects 25-45% of children with ADHD. More recent studies reveal that around 70% of adults with ADHD experience some level of emotional dysregulation.[i]

This emotional dysregulation can lead to ADHD mood swings with low frustration tolerance and meltdowns or tantrums. The mood swings further disrupt the child’s life and contribute to becoming even less effective in accomplishing daily tasks, and can have a significant negative impact on self-esteem. After experiencing a meltdown, the child may feel worse about themselves compared to their peers who don’t experience ADHD mood swings and meltdowns.[ii]

For decades, the Drake Institute has used advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with ADHD and other brain-based disorders. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ADHD patients reduce their symptoms, including mood swings, and lead better lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD and several other brain-based -conditions, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Because it typically presents early, ADHD is most often diagnosed in children, though it affects both children and adults. Sometimes ADHD individuals without behavioral problems may not show significant difficulty until adolescence or even young adulthood. Individuals with ADHD struggle with inattention; some also have challenges related to impulse control and hyperactivity. ADHD symptoms can cause problems in work, school, and at times, social settings.

ADHD has multiple contributory causes, particularly genetic and environmental factors. Environmental risk factors include early exposure to neurotoxins, like some pesticides.[iii] Prenatal exposure to alcohol or tobacco, premature birth, and low birth weight have all been associated with an increased risk of developing ADHD.

Though there is no known cure for ADHD, proper treatment can help individuals with ADHD improve their attention, reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity, and develop successful lives. In fact, at the Drake Institute, we have had some patients who after completing treatment have seen such a reduction in symptoms that they no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

How & why does ADHD cause mood dysregulation?

ADHD is a complex disorder that can affect emotional functioning and well-being. Recent studies indicate that individuals with ADHD may have increased challenges relating to impatience, temper, excitability, and low frustration tolerance.[iv] So is ADHD a mood disorder? No, while ADHD can cause mood swings and contribute to emotional dysregulation, it is not defined as a mood disorder.

But exactly why does ADHD cause mood swings? There are several aspects of the disorder and its symptoms that can lead to mood swings with ADHD, in particular:

Emotional “flooding”

Emotional flooding refers to when a temporary emotion can take over “all of the space in [a person’s] head.”[v] When this happens, the excessive emotional response is disproportionate to the event. The individual can’t regulate their behavior and emotions or take in information.

Working memory impairments

Working memory is the type of memory that allows a person to process and act on the information they just stored. Those with ADHD have less effective working memories than their peers without the disorder.[vi] This impairment in working memory can lead to impaired performance with frustration and emotional over-reactivity.[vii]

Sensitivity to disapproval

Because individuals with ADHD are exposed to frequent criticisms due to diminished academic or work performance and/or impulsive behaviors that they have reduced control over, they can develop “a sensitive nerve” or hypersensitivity to criticism.[viii]


An individual with ADHD can experience increased anxiety due to feeling overwhelmed with having to complete a task or project, which then can cause procrastination or avoidance.[ix]

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can result from untreated ADHD, especially as ADHD individuals struggle with task completion. Repeated underachievement and criticism can leave the individual feeling hopeless, frustrated, and losing further confidence in their abilities.

Poor emotional regulation

Many individuals with ADHD experience emotional dysregulation. Biologically they may have a lower frustration tolerance, and their “fight or flight response” may get triggered very easily, which causes significant emotional dysregulation. This dysregulation can obviously negatively impact a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence. The child may feel that they are abnormal compared to their peers when they observe that their peers don’t react this way.

How to deal with ADHD mood swings?

At the Drake Institute, we believe the best way to deal with ADHD mood swings is to improve brain functioning to more optimal, integrated processing through brain map-guided neurofeedback. Through treatment, the patient is improving functional brain connectivity within and between different brain networks or regions.

As the brain processes more efficiently and completely, emotional dysregulation is reduced.

We recommend clinical treatment with brain map-guided neurofeedback, and sometimes, adjunctively neurostimulation. These treatments can help reduce emotional dysregulation by optimizing healthier, more efficient brain functioning.

At the Drake Institute, we have helped patients overcome ADHD-driven mood swings, including tantrums or meltdowns, and have even had some ADHD patients that by the completion of their treatment program no longer meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

In addition to clinical treatment, we recommend the following supportive strategies:

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of calming your mind to reduce uncomfortable emotions and keep yourself more emotionally balanced. Practices like breathwork, meditation, and yoga may help reduce anxiety, stress, and other uncomfortable emotions.[x]

Increase self-awareness

Self-awareness is having a deeper understanding of yourself - your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions.[xi] Increasing your self-awareness can also help you understand your ADHD symptoms and how they affect you in different areas of life.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings, specifically around your symptoms and ADHD experience, may help you discover what triggers your ADHD mood swings, which can give you more control over it.[xii]


Another way to deal with ADHD mood swings is exercise. Getting regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress and increase feel-good chemicals in the body.[xiii] Recent studies have also shown that exercise can help reduce ADHD symptoms temporarily.[xiv] Regular moderate exercise, like taking daily walks or playing a sport, may help reduce mood swings.

Embrace your hyperfocus

People with ADHD can use a tendency to hyperfocus to their advantage. Finding a topic or hobby you enjoy can allow you to embrace your hyperfocus and become skilled in that area. This, in turn, can help boost self-esteem and your mood.[xv]

Eat a healthy & balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet rich in important vitamins and minerals is important to your overall health and may help manage your ADHD symptoms.[xvi] Likewise, it’s important to limit or avoid foods known to worsen ADHD symptoms, like refined sugar, artificial flavorings, and colorings.[xvii]

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep allows your body and brain to rest and is a crucial part of health, especially for people with ADHD. Good sleep hygiene can help individuals feel more alert and balanced during the day, so try to stick to a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine.[xviii]

Mood swings & mental health conditions

While mood swings can result from untreated ADHD, they are not exclusive to ADHD, but could also indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder.[xix] An accurate clinical diagnosis is essential to effective treatment.

How the Drake Institute Treats ADHD

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding, and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient sees the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.





















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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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